The Next Five Years

Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.

My confidence in the iOS platform has been waning over the last 12 months. iOS 7 was a hard upgrade to swallow both in terms of the changes and the work it brought. A questionable visual refresh, but few improvements to a core experience that finally felt behind what the competition was offered.

My time with C# and Azure showed me the sharp edges in Objective-C that I wasn’t fully aware of before. It’s not that Objective-C is a bad language (it’s pretty great), but it’s also built on a foundation that makes things that should be simple not so simple.

Even the developer tools were lacking. The iOS publishing and beta experience has been laughably bad for years, especially compared to what Google offers Android developers.

And then in two hours, Apple shut me up. They pretty much offered a solution for every single thing I have bitched about over the past five years. Extensions, CloudKit, a new iTunes Connect. And Swift, an entirely new programming language that will likely power the future of iOS and OS X development for years to come.

I came into this years WWDC fairly mellow to what would or wouldn’t be announced. There wasn’t any anticipation or excitement the night before. Just a standard amount of curiousity. After the Keynote, I can’t remember being that excited since the announcement of the original iPhone. They blew the roof off Moscone.

With my entire list of complaints about the Apple platform resolved, what am I supposed to complain about now? I have spent the better part of the last week thinking about an entirely new list of things for Apple to work on these next five years, so that I can both continue to have something to nitpick and because I truly believe they will enhance the platform in meaningful ways.

  • A Global Accounts System: Authenticating with your Facebook or Twitter account on iOS is as simple as accepting an alert view pop-up. Authenticating with Foursquare, Glassboard, or any other third-party auth provider requires either manually entering passwords or using a URI scheme to jump between apps. Being able to set any third-party service as an auth provider a la Twitter or Facebook would benefit all users of those services. (Radar: 17226236)
  • async-await: Swift is wonderful until you have to create a dispatch queue. Then you remember that concurrency is still way too hard on Apple’s platforms. C# has solved this in a meaningful way with their async-await keywords that make asynchronous programming incredibly simple. (Radar: 17226224)
  • Better Refactoring Tools In Xcode: Xcode 6 is a wonderful update, but its ability to refactor code in meaningful and reliable ways still lags severely behind Android Studio and Visual Studio.
  • Token-Based APNS: The certificate dance that you have to jump through to work with Apple’s Push Notification Server is horrendous when compared to other solutions. Being able to register for a secret token and use that to authenticate is far simpler to integrate than the certificates and provisioning profiles needed presently. (Radar: 17226189)
  • CloudKit REST Endpoints: CloudKit is designed to excel on iOS and OS X, but there are server-side scenarios where it would be beneficial to be able to hit a CloudKit end point and pass data to a user’s account, or register a silent push based on a third-party data source hosted remotely. (Radar: 17226182)
  • Default Apps On iOS: With great third-party apps that are offering full replacements for standard apps like Safari, Mail, and Calendar, it’d be ideal to be able to associate them with iOS so if I use Mail and tap a link I can have it open in Chrome, my preferred iOS browser. (Radar: 17226170)

Here’s to the next five years.

Read more about. . .

By Justin Williams

This is a two sentence bio. There are many like it, but this one is mine.